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Does apple juice lower cholesterol?

High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. Making dietary changes to lower cholesterol is an important part of preventing heart attacks and strokes for many people. Fruit juices are often assumed to be healthy, but some are loaded with sugar and calories. This article examines whether drinking apple juice can provide benefits for cholesterol levels.

How Apple Juice May Help Lower Cholesterol

Apple juice contains beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Research suggests polyphenols may:

  • Decrease LDL “bad” cholesterol
  • Increase HDL “good” cholesterol
  • Improve blood cholesterol ratios

The polyphenols in apples include flavonoids like quercetin, epicatechin, and procyanidins. These compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in the body.

Antioxidants help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, a key step in the development of heart disease. Oxidized LDL causes inflammation in the arteries.

Apples are also rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can bind to cholesterol in the digestive tract and promote its excretion from the body. This can effectively lower circulating blood cholesterol levels.

Additionally, the probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, in unpasteurized apple juice may lower LDL and total cholesterol, according to an animal study published in the European Journal of Nutrition.

Studies on Apple Juice and Cholesterol

Several studies have looked at the effects of apple juice on cholesterol levels in animals. However, there is limited research in humans:

  • In an animal study, rats fed dried apple had decreased total cholesterol and triglycerides. Rats given concentrated apple juice also had lower triglycerides, but not lower cholesterol.
  • In hamsters fed a high cholesterol diet, fresh apple juice decreased total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides while raising HDL. It also protected LDL cholesterol from oxidation.
  • Researchers gave mice prone to high cholesterol either water, concentrated apple juice, or diluted apple juice for six weeks. The concentrated apple juice lowered total cholesterol and triglycerides.

Results from the few human studies are mixed:

  • In one study, adults drank 500 ml of unfiltered apple juice daily for four weeks. While antioxidant capacity improved, there were no significant effects on cholesterol levels.
  • People with mildly elevated cholesterol drank 750 ml of apple juice or apple cider daily. After six weeks, total cholesterol and LDL decreased, while HDL increased.
  • Overweight men and women drank 330 ml of apple juice concentrate twice daily for 12 weeks. No significant changes in cholesterol levels were observed.

Based on the current research, apple juice may provide modest benefits for cholesterol levels. However, more human studies are needed.

Nutrition Facts for Apple Juice

The cholesterol-lowering potential of apple juice likely depends on the amount and type consumed:

  • Whole apples – Most nutritious option, provides fiber and vitamins
  • Fresh apple juice – Retains some fiber and nutrients
  • Store-bought apple juice – Low in fiber with added sugars
  • Apple juice concentrate – Loses beneficial compounds during processing

For example, here is the nutrition information in one cup (248 grams) of unsweetened apple juice versus a medium raw apple with skin:

Nutrient Apple juice Medium apple
Calories 117 95
Protein 0.5 g 0.5 g
Carbs 28 g 25 g
Sugar 24 g 19 g
Fiber 0.5 g 4.4 g
Fat 0.3 g 0.3 g

As you can see, fresh apple juice contains less fiber and more sugars than a whole apple. Choosing cloudy, unfiltered juice may provide more benefits.

Downsides of Apple Juice

Drinking juice instead of eating whole fruit does strip away beneficial fiber. Fiber aids digestion, improves satiety, and feeds healthy gut bacteria.

Commercially produced juices are often filtered, pasteurized, and stripped of nutrients. Sugar and excess calories can also be a concern.

For example, here is the nutrition data for 1 cup (248 grams) of Mott’s 100% Apple Juice:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 120
Total sugar 28 g
Added sugars 28 g
Protein 0 g
Fiber 0 g

A 1 cup serving has 120 calories and 28 grams of sugar, with no fiber or protein. Consuming apple juice in moderation is key.

Healthier Ways to Drink Apple Juice

Here are some tips for incorporating apple juice into a healthy diet:

  • Have a small glass (4–8 oz) with meals.
  • Dilute juice with sparkling water for a lower sugar option.
  • Buy 100% juice without added sugars or preservatives.
  • Look for cloudy, unfiltered juice rich in nutrients and fiber.
  • Make fresh juice at home using a juicer or blender.
  • Eat whole apples more often than drinking apple juice.

Be sure to keep juice intake moderate since beverages don’t satisfy hunger as well as solid fruits and vegetables.

Other Cholesterol-Lowering Foods and Drinks

Research shows certain foods and beverages can lower LDL and raise HDL when consumed regularly as part of a healthy diet:

  • Oats – Soluble fiber lowers cholesterol.
  • Nuts – Plant sterols and fiber improve cholesterol.
  • Fatty fish – Omega-3 fats protect heart health.
  • Beans – Fiber, plant protein, and minerals benefit cholesterol.
  • Red wine – Resveratrol and antioxidants increase HDL.
  • Tea – Catechins reduce cholesterol absorption.

Incorporating more cholesterol-friendly foods and beverages can make a big difference overtime. But dietary changes alone may not lower cholesterol enough for some people with high risk.

Should You Take Apple Juice for High Cholesterol?

Apple juice could potentially help lower cholesterol when consumed regularly. However, its effects are likely modest compared to medication or lifestyle changes.

Dietary strategies with the most evidence for improving cholesterol include:

  • Eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans
  • Choosing lean protein sources like fish, chicken, and beans
  • Replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
  • Limiting processed foods, salt, sugar, and refined carbs
  • Drinking green tea and moderate amounts of coffee or red wine
  • Losing excess weight if overweight or obese
  • Quitting smoking and increasing physical activity

People with high cholesterol should have their levels monitored regularly by a doctor. Lifestyle therapy is recommended first, followed by cholesterol medications if needed.

The Bottom Line

Early research suggests apple juice may provide some benefits for cholesterol levels. Polyphenols, fiber, and probiotics appear to be the compounds responsible.

However, human studies are limited and results are mixed. Any cholesterol-lowering effects of apple juice are likely small compared to other dietary changes and medication.

Enjoying a small glass of fresh apple juice with meals is fine for most healthy people. But limit intake of commercial juices high in sugar and calories. Eating whole apples is a healthier choice for getting fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.

Apple juice can be one part of a cholesterol-lowering diet, but not a substitute for proven lifestyle changes and medication if needed. Speak to your doctor to create the most effective cholesterol treatment plan for your health needs.